wiki:projects/leadership-committee/meetings/2015-01-10/structure

Version 15 (modified by Enrique Rosas, 5 years ago) (diff)

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January 2015 LC meeting Structure

Mallory, Louis and Enrique

I. Current Structure


# Instance Structures Meetings Comments
01 Members Members annual meeting, is planned and organized as an assembly, it has a quorum of 10% the number of total members. Individuals and organizations who have agreed to our Statement of Unity and Membership Agreement, and pay yearly dues
02 Leadership Committee Leadership Committee members meet monthly Up to 15 individuals who are members, or staff of member organizations, who have been elected by the members to serve 1-year term.
03 Leadership Committee chairman (JuanG) calls for LC to meet and proposes the agenda. LC chairman takes part in the coordinators call
04 Leadership Committee coordinators meets weekly (at the moment, the "transition team")-- is a body of self-proposed LC members that maintains weekly meetings in charge of reviewing overall operations and needs,
05 Outreach team (inactive) Outreach coordinator (Alfredo) Refers to work of MF-PL that involves participating in bodies or otherwise representing the organization in settings outside of MF-PL. With presence in USSF, MagNet. Alfredo plans, operates and evaluates the outreach strategy
06 Support team meets monthly In charge of managing the development and maintenance of MFPL infrastructure, provides support and collaborates with members in a daily basis, meets the first Saturday of each month. For more detail, please visit: https://support.mayfirst.org/wiki/support-team
07 Support team group with root access to all servers Is an internal group of the support team that is responsible of the sysadmin work essential to the operation of the current infrastructure, their responsibilities give them access to members communications, so they are trusted by all our members. People who have root currently decide upon who gets root. For a list of people of this group, please see: https://support.mayfirst.org/wiki/support-team/all-servers-root-access
08 Paid support worker(s) meet weekly with support team coordinator They are part of the Support team group with root access to all servers. For more detail, please visit https://support.mayfirst.org/wiki/support-team#PaidStaff
09 Support team coordinator (Jamie) leads projects of this team, colaborates daily, does checkin weekly with core support members and meets with support team members every month
10 Admin team (inactive) Paid admin worker(s) + Coordinator (position not filled) admin, human resources, accounting
11 Membership work team (inactive) Membership coordinator (position not filled) In charge of strategies to develop increasing participation from our members
12 International work team (inactive) * International coordinator (position not filled) + Translation and interpretation team (inactive)
13 Mexican co-op * Admin council, * Education commission, * Tech development commission, * Control commission, * Social-security commission meets monthly Mx-coop is our local organizing instance. Legal body in México. Control and Social Security comissions are legal requirements. Control Comission reviews function to assure that things are operating in accordance with the bylaws (also with co-op regulations as per Mexican law).
14 Media Jumpstart board of directors (inactive) Legal body in the US, including Alfredo, Jamie and Josue who isn't on the LC anymore, but he is still on the board

II. Assumptions

For the purpose of this document workers are active-members who commit work regularly, or have committed work in a regular way recently. Workers includes LC members.

We say publicly that: "May First/People Link is a politically progressive member-run and controlled organization... we gather together each year to evaluate the past year's experiences, plan the coming year's work and elect a Leadership Committee to apply what we've decided."

In this document we intentionally avoid qualifying democracy with words such as: open, transparent, effective, bottom-up, etc. and assume a utopic, direct democracy in all instances of its use.

III. Evidence and Analysis

Crises

The profound crisis in which MFPL currently finds itself, as with other recent similar moments when internal contradictions have arisen, exists in two parts:

  1. Closure of the open Internet and increase in surveillance of all people, enabled by the Internet.
  2. Lack of democratic participation from most members in May First/People Link.

What follows is the evidence for and our analysis of these two aspects of our current crisis, particularly focused on they are related to MFPL's structure.

1. Internet as a front of struggle

Our failure to promote critical thinking and broad action against corporate concentration of information and massive surveillance, even after the Snowden revelations, should show us that the goal of developing MFPL as democratic membership organization with active members is impossible to meet in the short term, perhaps even in the medium term, given the incipient level of consciousness in the social movement about the Internet as a multi-dimensional front of struggle. Even if our members are generally convinced about our project, and even if they support our work by maintaining their membership in MFPL, that does not mean that they understand and share our conclusion that it is strategic that we build for the movement an option of a democratic membership organization to maintain an Internet communication infrastructure and make it grow as to cover our increasing needs, while we defend the Internet as a means for social change.

At present, among our members no understanding exists of shared goals based on the political vision of MFPL. This precludes the possibility of having a democratic, member-led and controlled organization.

Our organization has as its vision to contribute to the progressive movement, functioning as a democratic membership organization whose principal actors are our members. However, our organizing efforts in recent years have shown that those actors (when they are present in our calls) do not have a significant level of commitment either to MFPL or to one another in our context. Although they can and often do converge and coordinate in a variety of ways in other political contexts, projects and networks.

If we want to build a democratic membership organization, then a key objective is to get to the point where our members are engaged in MFPL projects and that they are committed to making contributions to the internal life of the organization. Membership should be synonym of active-members. Members should be effectively politicized by being associated with MFPL to join mass struggle for an open Internet and take steps to protect their own networks from online surveillance.

We are not there yet, and it will take a lot of work and the right strategies to get there.

2. MFPL as a democratic organization

Our organization presents itself as if we had reached the point where we can call ourselves a democratic membership organization, run and controlled by its members. This is a strategic error. It creates false expectations about how we plan the work, how we organize, and how we participate and relate to each other. This is ironically most true with those members who show willingness to contribute with regular work and who thus become part of the core of the organization.

This strategic error in creating false expectations also helps to explain why during recent LC cycles there has been so much debate on 'internal' democracy and decision making models, to the point of destabilizing the organization.

At present we must prioritize the creation of conditions for internal democracy and motivation among the members who already participate regularly in MFPL (who we could consider MFPL workers), in order to reach the internal cohesion and stability needed to collectively increase member participation and organizational-wide democracy.

Increasing internal democracy and motivation among all workers will help ensure that we welcome new, active members interested in engaging in our current projects by "holding a space" where there is satisfaction regarding the direction and overall collective development of our efforts.

Some of our attempts to democratize organization-wide will be successful and some will fail, but they will require the involvement of us all (already active participants) and they will also need systematic improvement based on evidence and regular evaluation. This aspect needs to be addressed separately and in more detail.

Mechanisms for Democracy

Acquisition: Our members sign-up here: https://mayfirst.org/joinus to request membership. Membership requests are accepted without exception. The political relationship that is suggested by the Unity Statement is a relaxed condition with little practical importance or consequence.

Assimilation: There are no formal channels of communication between members. Most of them do not know other members in their areas. If they know others doing similar work or with similar politics, this is something apart from MFPL. MFPL does not at present have strategies to monitor and follow up on member initiatives in order to identify those related to our mission and goals as an organization.

Action: At this point, once you are a member, you can continue being one simply by paying dues regularly. So, based on the very design, this relationship works against our goal. Without other concrete forms of collaboration between each member and MFPL, the essence of the relationship is a commercial one: pay dues and receive services.

Continuity: Our previous efforts of designing a bulletin The Lowdown, organizing on-line conferences on several political topics, or promoting a Movement's School, had the shared purpose of reducing the profile of MFPL as a service provider, while increasing it's political profile among our members. But none of those efforts are able to change the essence of this relationship.

There are a lot of concrete initiatives each specialized internal area of work could do in order to promote participation from current members (membership development), and we all should be thinking on what can we do for the in-reach work. Lets think together! This should be a major activity of the LC.

Outreach and Growth

We must work to promote of specific initiatives in our political context, coordination with other organizations in the form of alliances or strategic partnerships, so that we build a stronger presence and have more political impact in certain events or processes. This work presents major political challenges to our organization. Addressing them requires preparation, analysis, outreach, public presence, evaluation and theory, that is praxis. To the greatest extent possible, it requires involvement of all workers. It could become even more feasible yet, and a stronger strategy if the workers were directly involved in the decision making as to what outreach strategies should be, and that, in developing that strategy and collectively evaluating the results, they could rely on coordination and guidance from the most politically experienced people among us. It is likely, if people in all internal specialized areas of work takes part in the general outreach strategy, that over the time we will have both achievements and attempts that will not be successful, but if this work becomes a shared experience in all it's aspects, Political Education will become a natural demand from workers.

If done correctly, a strategy of outreach that incorporates Political Education in the right time, will avoid Political Education to be seen as an indoctrination strategy of some people to reduce internal critical opposition, but as a positive process that will promote debate in a new organizational space designed for that purpose, a process focused on increasing the political skills of each person and our collective capacities.

Membership recruitment is an activity in which all of us should also be engaged on a regular basis. We are sure, the more convinced that we are about our development as an organization, the more commitment and passion we can demonstrate towards this task.

Activities related with the promotion of new memberships should not be considered as apart from other projects developed by other working areas, it should not be a task for an specialized area, on the contrary all areas should plan their projects in such a way that consider in their design the tasks related to membership recruitment: welcome people interested, present their goals, calendar of activities, and introduce workers and other members already participating, offer concrete ways of participation and also report through https://support.mayfirst.org on their activities and progress.

Furthermore, new members should request their membership in a process that considers not only accepting the Statement of Unity and the Membership Agreement, this process should request to applicant to opt-in for participation in one or more of the projects developed by all working areas, as a condition to be accepted as a member. And then the welcome process should include immediate communication with the person in charge in that project.

If accepted, this strategy will create in new members another sense of what a membership is in a participatory way. And will demand systematic improvement of outreach, promotion and communication, but also a shared responsibility on membership development.

Just as in in-reach work, we need to distribute and generalize the outreach work, and this should be a priority for the organization. Sure it could be interesting and formative to hear from all workers on what is the outreach and inreach they would like to develop, and what their strategies would like to put at play.

Internal Growth and Political Development

MFPL regular operations demand acting in a timely manner to face threats and other legal, operational and political disruptive situations. Considering MFPL operates 24 hours per day and 7 days per week, in a combination of volunteered and paid work done by a group of people (some working regularly in a weekly basis and some others daily). Reacting in an adequate way to those threats, needs from us to have at least one person who is aware of the disposition of our resources, capabilities and alliances, and can put them at play as situations demand. A position in the structure that should be held accountable by members and that should be able to provide explanation anytime about current conditions and steps being developed by specialized teams responsible of each organization strategy.

The need of balancing racial and gender composition inside decision making bodies and representation of MFPL As accepted by the current Leadership Committee, in the spirit of facing the structural problems of racism and sexism in our societies we consider a priority the promotion of a broad agreement among all workers on how the composition of decision making bodies and instances of representation should be conform.

Burning Questions

If we want to recruit members from whom we expect democratic participation, then we are asking for individuals and organizations to commit resources back to MFPL.

  1. Why, beyond provision of services that are obviously of practical benefit to members, do we expect new members to become involved in our organization?
  2. How do our politics relate to left social movement organizations? What about MFPL attracts them to us?
  3. What is the purpose of structuring our work into "Working Groups?" Is this purpose an adequate trade off of flexibility?
  4. How is MFPL a bridge between "technology" and social movements? How could we consider the day to day exigencies of left social movement organizations and formations that, while working daily with technology, still do not normally reflect on questions related that are central to MFPL?

IV. Concrete proposals

Given this analysis, the aspects of our structure that are ready for concrete debate and decision making are:

  1. The Media Jumpstart board should be comprised of LC members (and director(s), see proposal 6). Members of the Media Jumpstart board be re-confirmed each year by the LC (or the Council of Representatives, see proposal 3-5) as a matter of business.

Questions to spark debate: Are Jamie, Alfredo and Josué the right people to be on the MFPL's legal body in the United States in 2015? What is at stake in this legal responsibility of MFPL and are adjustments needed with respect to both our current and any future structures?

Role of the Leadership Committee

  1. Leadership Committee should transform to being a body that provides advice to the organization on its political orientation, recruitment and evaluation strategies, and programmatic work, but that has no responsibility or decision making per se regarding its day to day operations. LC members are elected representatives from members who are willing to engage described responsibilities.

Questions to spark debate: If the LC is an advisory board, how are decisions made? What body decides how money is spent? Assuming that this would require a transitional process, what would need to determine a timeframe for this to happen?

Council of Representatives

  1. The current Coordinators should transform into a Council of Representatives from each work area (working group or working team) and from elected representatives from our membership who are willing to engage on responsibilities on operations.
  1. Each work area (Admin, Internationalization, Membership, Outreach and Support) should have a fixed representative and include Leadership Committee members who are willing to participate. Each representative would be responsible for welcoming new members and introducing them to the team and the work.
  1. Work areas (teams or groups) should elect a representative who is in charge also of representing them politically at the coordinators' meeting.

Questions to spark debate: What is the difference between the coordinators and the council of representatives? Are the existing work areas the right ones?

Projects

  1. Projects should be well defined to highlight the active contributions MFPL has on social movement work and on the organization itself. Each project should have a fixed coordinator, project goals, activities, budget and should provide reports in weekly meetings and monthly LC meetings.

Questions to spark debate: How are project coordinators accountable to the membership? How is this counter-proposal different than the existing Coordinators group, Council of Representatives and working areas?

Directors

  1. Reinstate the director position. Director(s) should report to the LC and be in charge of executive decisions to react in timely manner to threats and other administrative, legal, operational and personnel-related decisions. In consultation, they would also be responsible for politically disruptive situations that are strategic or time-sensitive.
  1. Leadership Committee and coordinators (or Council of Representatives) should include directors, if this position is instated.

Questions to spark debate: How do we fund this position? How do we hire for this position and how is the position renewed?

Definition of Membership

  1. New members should be involved in working groups in addition to paying annual dues, agreeing on our statement of unity and abiding by our membership agreement.

Questions to spark debate: Could members create projects as contributions to MFPL (mutual aid) that also helps them achieve the needs of their organizations? Would we create another term for organizations or individuals who use our services but who do not participate in working groups? How do members that don't participate in a work group participate in decision making? Do coordinators have the capacity for 800+ people divided amongst the working groups?

Outreach

  1. All work teams should be directly involved in Outreach planning and the development of outreach strategies.
  1. Outreach should be considered a political responsibility of all workers that demands not only enthusiastic participation, but systematic planning and evaluation with goals, strategy, Leadership Committee guidance, and coordination with their work area.
  1. The support team should propose political initiatives and engage in projects with social movements, which creates opportunities for collaboration with the outreach and membership teams and should in turn contribute to the plans of those teams.

Federated Model

  1. In a federated model, the Mexican Co-op should be considered a local organizing instance of MFPL, “the organization”. MFPL should work towards promoting the creation of other instances of this kind in whatever physical location where there are members interested in growing their organizing strength this way.

Questions to spark debate: Should those new instances use one legal form over another (such as a co-op), taking into consideration local realities? What is the significance of physical location (of people and/or servers) for a local organizing instance of MFPL?